It’s reassuring to know that so many N64 consoles still work 20 years later. But as TV technology changes, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a setup that your trusty N64 will work with.
Not only that, but even if your N64 does work with your modern LCD/LED TV, the picture quality is likely to be below average.
But fear not, for we’ve come up with a guide to help get your N64 working with your HDTV. While we can’t guarantee these potential fixes will work, they’re at least worth giving a go. After all, N64 emulation on a PC is notorious for being inconsistent and often poor in terms of quality, so you should stick to the real deal if you can!
Guide: Using an N64 with an LCD/LED HDTV
- Find the right connection port on your TV
- My TV doesn’t have the correct port to plug my N64 into
- My TV has the correct port, but doesn’t display the N64’s video output
Before getting started, make sure you have the following:
- N64 console
- N64 power supply lead
- N64 RCA connector cable (preferred) or N64 RF adaptor cable
- an N64 game – the system doesn’t have an OS, so it won’t show a picture without a game cartridge inserted
- an RCA-to-SCART plug (optional).
Ideally, you will want to connect your N64 to your HDTV via RCA composite connectors (AV IN 2 in photo) or a SCART port (AV IN 1 in photo) (you will need an RCA-to-SCART plug to do this).
Alternatively, you can connect via the TV’s antenna socket, but you will need to tune the N64 into one of the TV’s channels if you do this.
Many newer TVs no longer feature composite RCA or SCART connections. As a result, you will need to consider using either a converter/upscaler or, if you’re a real enthusiast, getting your hands on the elusive UltraHDMI N64 mod.
(image credit: DoughtyJ)
Using a converter/upscaler is not ideal, as it will introduce lag. On a CRT TV, when you press a button on your controller, you’d see the resulting action of that button press happen almost immediately on-screen. Converters/upscalers process the video signal and, in doing so, can introduce a delay between your input and what happens on screen.
You can get a converter/upscaler for an affordable price, but you may find that lower-end models introduce a lot of lag.
Does your TV have a game mode?
It’s worth checking to see if your TV has a “game mode” option. Many modern HDTVs will have built-in upscaling to present the best possible picture. While this is fine for standard video, it will introduce noticeable lag when it comes to video game consoles.
To put it simply, some newer TVs can’t process the signal that the N64 console outputs (or they process it incorrectly), despite having the correct ports.
Therefore, you will need to consider getting a converter/upscaler to convert the image to a higher signal output or, if you have enough pennies, an UltraHDMI N64 mod.
(image credit: DoughtyJ)
As we’ve already highlighted above, using an upscaler is not ideal, as it will introduce lag. On a CRT TV, when you press a button on your controller, you see the resulting action of that button press happen almost immediately on-screen. Converters/upscalers process the video signal and, in doing so, can introduce a delay between input and display.
You can get an converter/upscaler for an affordable price, but you may find that lower-end models introduce a lot of lag.
If you have the funds then consider investing in a more specialist type of upscaler, such as the XRGB Mini Framemeister (which is incredibly pricey) or, if you can get your hands on it, the relatively recent Open Source Scan Converter.
Have you considered getting a CRT TV?
It’s important to note that the N64 was designed to be used with a CRT (cathode ray tube) TV. This type of TV was more or less the only type available to most consumers back in the late ‘90s, but they’ve declined in popularity since LCD/LED TVs became available.
It’s easy to understand why: CRT TVs are typically much larger and much heavier than LCD/LED TVs, and the vast majority couldn’t display a high-definition picture. If you’ve ever had to lift a CRT then you’ll immediately know why home electronics companies decided to stop making them.
Nevertheless, the benefits of getting a CRT is that your N64 should work with it and the picture quality will be vastly superior to what you’ll get if you plug it into an LCD/LED TV (unless you get the pricey UltraHDMI N64 mod).
Where can I get a CRT TV if they’re no longer manufactured?
Your best bet for finding a CRT TV nowadays is to look in charity shops (thrift stores in North America) and secondhand shops. Online auction and classified-ad sites like eBay and Craigslist are also a good place to look, although you’ll want to look for local listings to avoid extortionate postage costs (most sellers will expect you to collect a CRT from their location anyway).
You should also take a look on Freecycle – why pay when someone might be giving it away for free?
What should I look for when buying a CRT TV?
While a bigger screen may be tempting, we advise you look for the smallest CRT TV possible. For starters, it will be much easier to carry (larger sets will require at least two strong people), and the picture will look sharper on a smaller set, as the N64 only outputs at a low resolution.
Look for a CRT TV with composite RCA connector ports (red, yellow and white) or SCART input (you’ll need to plug your N64’s RCA cable into a SCART plug to use this port). Some TVs will have an S-Video connection, but you will need to buy a separate cable in order to plug your N64 in (and these are less common than RCA connector cables). If you are able to find a TV with RGB SCART then even better, as it means you can use an RGB-modded N64 with it.
If you have a PAL N64 then there’s a good chance that your system came with an RF adaptor (see image above), rather than an RCA cable, which you use to tune the N64 to the TV via its aerial socket. Virtually all CRT TVs will have this port, so you don’t need to worry about this. However, we’d strongly advise buying the RCA cable if you haven’t got one already; they’re affordable, the picture quality is superior, and you won’t have to faff around with tuning your N64 to the TV.
Have we missed something?
If this guide hasn’t helped solve your issue or we’ve missed out an important step then let us know on Twitter. We’ll happily ask the wider community of N64 gamers for their help on your behalf.